#BizDevTip

‘Coopetition’

“Coopetition” = Cooperating while competing.

I heard a new word today, ‘Coopetition‘.

In an article in Philippine publication Business Mirror, Stephanie Tomampos credits Philippine Science Secretary Fortunato T de la Pena with using the term during his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 17th Conference of the Science Council of Asia at the Philippine International Convention Centre on June 14th.

Although not directed at lawyers, but at scientists who cooperate while competing for research funding, I thought the word summed up well the role of the modern law firm; where firms are increasing being asked to cooperate with each other in order to contribute towards inclusive overall development of the client’s business.

Whereas in the past this sort of cooperation may have been limited to unbundling, LPO or labour arbitrage, today cooperation between the various legal service providers of a client extends way, way beyond this.

We see it in the way firms are now required to cooperate with each with the IT platform(s)/environment the client uses. We see it in the way we pitch innovation to clients, where if we work with multiple firms servicing the client we cooperate with each other on innovative ways of doing the job. We see it in the way we are being asked to work with project teams, often with New Law providers such as Lawyers on Demand and Crowd & Co.

Driven largely by a need for cost efficiencies, what we are increasingly seeing is a demand by clients for a cohesive, inclusive, approach to their client experience (CX) from all of their legal service providers.

This means that while we very much remain competitors, in the new world order we need to cooperate with each other in order to be in a position to compete at all!

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#BizDevTip: Develop Value Groups

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Over toast and coffee this morning I read a cracking post on the LexisNexis Business of Law Blog by Carla Del Bove titled “Understanding the Science Behind How Clients Think“. The post provides some good tips for law firm business developers and marketers, but includes an absolute gem of a tip: “Develop Value Groups” (number 2 in the list), which Carla Del Bove describes as being:

“A value group is simply a group of influential business professionals (e.g. CFOs of major corporations or office managers of the top five consulting firms across the country, etc.) who meet either quarterly, or three times a year and share a common interest.

The first step involves figuring out who the firm’s target group is and then finding a common theme that draws them in and keeps them engaged. Some examples of this include: inviting members of the group to a prestigious event or using a prominent key note speaker for meetings. Most important, they say, is there needs to be a clear purpose for getting together and participants need to get some value out of the meeting. Lastly, they agree, value groups are less about quantity as they are about quality.”

Really useful tip by Carla that I thought I would pass on to you. Make sure you read the rest of Carla’s post and if you would like to get updates on other business development and marketing related material I read each week, feel free to sign up to my free weekly Mail Chimp update (or email me if you want to be added to the subscriber list).

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#BizDevTip: Always be thinking of ways you can improve how you communicate with your client

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Research shows us that (aside from technical expertise) timely, responsive communications are high up on the list of things clients are looking for from their lawyers. This begs the question: how well do you communicate  with your clients, and what could you be doing to improve the experience?

For example:

  • when a client calls do you answer straight away? If not, do you call them as soon as you can after you are free?
  • when you get an email from your client, how long does it take you to respond? Do you ever respond to tell them you have received the email and are looking into the issue?
  • do you send tip-bits of information you read to clients if you think it might interest them (Saw This And Thought Of You)?
  • do you call your clients on a Friday afternoon to ask them how their week was and what they’ll be doing for the weekend?
  • do you ever tell your clients how they can contact you during holiday season?
  • does your client know your mobile phone number?
  • do you schedule regular meetings with your clients to talk through their work-flow issues and how you might be able to improve your timely and responsive communications with them?

Always remember, you have two ears and one mouth: by listening to your clients you are far more likely to hear their needs and concerns than if you do all the talking.

#BizDevTip: Segment your contacts list to gain greater business development traction

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Two things are pretty certain when dealing with Australian lawyers: First, they only have a ‘master’ CV (rarely tailored for the occasion); and second, they usually only have one contact database.

If this sounds familiar don’t fret, the answer is as simple as undertaking a health check of your current contact database and classifying each of your contacts according to their:

  • industry sector
  • geographic location
  • seniority
  • the strength of the relationship they have with you
  • any known specific and niche area needs they may have, and
  • their preferred method of communication.

You should start this process off by asking yourself:

“What does my contact need to know and how would they prefer I tell them?”

Get an honest answer to that question and you will find that you are much more likely to get engagement and a dialogue going with your contact(s) that should develop into better business leads.

On the other hand, you can keep your contacts bundled up in one database and see how many of them unsubscribe to updates in the near future.

#BizDevTip: Spring clean now for a strong start to 2016

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Spring has officially sprung in Australia (1 September) and so now is the time to do a spring clean of your law firm if you want to give yourself the best chance of making a strong start to 2016.

As a minimum, you should consider shaking out the winter cobwebs with the following housekeeping actions:

  1. Audit your client list  – to see who the best performers have been, who the up and comers are, and who have fallen off a bit.
  2. Review your revenue streams – to see which practices are getting revenue from which clients. Remember, the more practice groups that are getting instructions/revenue from a client, the more likely that client is to be a profitable client.
  3. Review and update your ‘key’ (which should include decision makers as well as supporters) contacts database and update their preferred method of communication (phone, email, chat, Facebook, tweet?).
  4. Hold an off-site firm strategy day that includes a review of market conditions, expected client demands, and how your firm will respond to these.
  5. Segment your client contact database by industry, etc so that clients receive the most appropriate information from you – rather than blasted mailshots.
  6. Start thinking about your FY2017 client listening program – who will you go and visit? Will you be doing this internally or externally?
  7. Start thinking about your FY2017 communication plan.
  8. Review and update your referrer / firm champion list.
  9. Look up what industry events will be taking place in 2016 and see if you need to be attending these.
  10. Consider ways that you can be adding value (via your value added services) to your client relationship that might differentiate you from your competitors.

I cannot guarantee that you and your firm will be star performers in 2016 if you carry out this spring clean, but I can guarantee that 2016 will [at best] be a fairly ordinary year for you and your firm if you don’t action these and more.

#BizDevTip: Clients don’t give you work just because they like the sound of your voice on the phone

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Yesterday I read a quote in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) that really resonated with me as a business development coach to law firm partners and senior lawyers.

The quote in question was by Aris Kekedjian – who is Vice-President & Managing Director, Global Business Development/M&A at GE – and was made in relation to the recent divestment of GE Capital and its assets.

What Kekedjian said was this:

“People don’t wire you billions of dollars because they like your voice on the phone.”

Precisely.

Now, just print that quote off and put it next to your phone please.

#BizDevTip: Take a copy of the client’s annual report to your pitch meeting…

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Last week (12 May 2015) the Business of Law on the Bloomberg website posted snippets from its most recent conversation with a leading in-house lawyer, this time Teri Plummer McClure, Chief Legal Officer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources at UPS (‘UPS GC: Stop Talking About Your Firm, Tell Me About Ours‘).

Have to say that I’m really beginning to enjoy this growing collection of discussions with leading general counsel and in-house counsel, but the take-out from this latest discussion was without doubt the following exchange between the interviewer and McClure:

Big Law Business: If a firm wanted to start a relationship with you, what’s the best way?

McClure: The best way is for them is to see where our business is going, and identify opportunities where they can add value to what we’re doing. It frustrates me to no end when a law firm comes and does a pitch for us, and the only thing they talk about is what the law firm does. I refuse to sit through most of them these days.

If they don’t know or haven’t taken the time to understand our business, the direction our business is headed, new business opportunities we might be pursuing, and then show us how they can add value, then I really don’t have time to sit through that pitch.

Wow, not sure you can get a much clearer message than that!

So, for all those law firm partners out there who like to go to pitch presentations (or beauty parades or tramps or whatever you call these in your firm) with target and actual clients with reams and reams of capability statements all about your firm and its various practice areas and service offerings, along with the lawyer profiles of everyone you think they may ask about – even if they are all done up in nice presentation packs with ribbons around them – here it is again, not from your business development/marketing manager/director, but direct from Teri Plummer McClure, Chief Legal Officer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources at UPS:

 “It frustrates me to no end when a law firm comes and does a pitch for us, and the only thing they talk about is what the law firm does. I refuse to sit through most of them these days.”

So here’s a tip*: next time you are invited to do a pitch presentation to a client or target client, why not have a copy of the client’s annual report next to you on the desk…

… just a thought.

[*but make sure you have read it of course!]